Hope in the slow spreading of the kingdom

Third Way Family

August 14, 2019 | Opinion | Volume 23 Issue 15
Christina Bartel Barkman |
Darnell Barkman (left) and Jeffrey Valdez (in academic dress) with two friends. (Photo courtesy of Christina Bartel Barkman)

At the Mennonite Church Canada Gathering earlier this summer, my husband Darnell and I led a workshop on the theme of inspiring the imagination of the local church. While we invited sharing about the seeds of hope in our local congregations—the good stuff God is doing in our communities that interrupts the brokenness in the world—a friend shared about a wonderful initiative to financially support sending children of their South Sudanese congregants to summer camp.

Another participant then asked about the fruit that’s come from this support and went on to share how, as an immigrant herself, MC Canada sponsored and supported her family years ago, and now her family is doing the same for new immigrants, offering the support they once received and welcoming them into the church. 

Hearing these stories was incredibly uplifting and inspiring. It made me reflect on the slow infilling of the kingdom of God in our communities and around the world, and how the fruit of what we sow is often seen in the next generation. I have often thought back to our missionary friends who visited us in Manila during our second year; they told us about their trip back to Colombia some 20 years after they served there and how they saw the incredible fruit of their work.

In times when I was impatient to see the impact of our work in the Philippines, with all the highs and lows the years held, my husband often reminded me about these dear friends and their wise advice of hope and patience in view of the way God moves, the way the church grows and the way the kingdom of God spreads. 

We have a friend named Jeff in the Philippines, who is part of Peace Church, a church community in Manila that we led for six years. He is a caring, responsible and intelligent young man, and he has long had a dream of becoming a clinical counsellor and setting up a counselling centre in his community, a place where people carry a lot of trauma, largely due to violence and poverty.

MC Canada supported Jeff to go to college. He completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology with top honours and he now works at a partner organization of Peace Church, the Lilok Foundation, as a coordinator of its youth-worker program. A couple weeks ago, Jeff called to share the exciting news that he was accepted into the master of psychology program at the University of the Philippines.

When I think of this new step towards Jeff’s goal and the faithfulness of his commitment to serve God and those in need, I can see the fruit of MC Canada’s involvement constantly being nurtured and growing. I am full of hope as I look at Jeff’s future and the impact he has, and will continue to have, and the fruit his life and love will bear. I’m very thankful, as is he, for MC Canada’s support in his education and our chance to walk alongside him as he serves in Manila. 

The kingdom of God is spreading through the slow moving of the Spirit and the love each person shares, interrupting the brokenness in our world and bearing witness to their dedication to this beautiful journey of following Jesus. The examples of the infiltration of the Spirit into our lives and our communities are endless. I encourage you to share these stories of hope as we slowly but steadily witness and participate in the spreading of the kingdom of God.

Christina Bartel Barkman, with her four little ones and her pastor husband, seeks to live out Jesus’ creative and loving “third way” options.

Read more Third Way Family columns by Christina Bartel Barkman:
Passionate about front-yard living
The holy task of parenting
Hold them close
Equally welcome
The beautiful chaos of kids at church

Darnell Barkman (left) and Jeffrey Valdez (in academic dress) with two friends. (Photo courtesy of Christina Bartel Barkman)

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